Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: Prometheus


James Cameron's Aliens is my 2nd favorite movie of all-time (I probably need to do one of those top 10-20 all time movie posts one of these days).  I might also put Alien in my top 20 so when I heard that Ridley Scott was returning to the sci fi genre in his upcoming film (a is it?  or isn't it?  Alien prequel), I was on board in a big way.  The 74-year old director proves with Prometheus that he still has the knack for thrilling and engrossing big-budget science fiction.  This is the case of a movie that lived up to the hype for me and easily becomes the best movie I've seen in 2012 thus far.

The film is set about 71 years in the future and follows two archaeologists (Sweedish Dragon Tattoo actress Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) who uncover cave markings that point to a planet that may or may not hold answers pertaining to the origin of man.  The pair team up with a crew of 15 other people who travel to the planet in the spaceship Prometheus, funded by the wealthy Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce) and his mega-million-dollar corporation.  The crew uncovers a hidden civilization with evidence of mass death and clues to how the beings got to the planet in the first place.  The details of the plot would lead to spoilertastic moments so I will not give them away.  Be assured that some things go wrong and there is a lot of action and suspense towards the end of the film.

Scott always manages to get good performances out of his actors and the cast of Prometheus is what makes the action and tension seem so authentic.  Most everyone comes through in a big way especially Michael Fassbender and Rapace.  Fassbender is one of the top emerging actors working today and his portrayal of David (a Weyland created android that evokes memories of Ashe and Bishop from the first two Alien movies) is outstanding.  He gives off a creepy/innocent vibe as a highly intelligent form of artificial life that is very curious in all of the fantastic events and evidence he and the crew are uncovering.

There are many gross-out scenes in the second half of the film but the most memorable one occurs in an auto-surgery machine.  This scene and the follow-on sequences showcase Rapace's acting skills and it's good to see her get more recognition for US film roles.  At only 33 years old, she may be a talent that we see more of in lead action roles.  Idris Elba branches out once again from his work on The Wire.  Having tackled the comic book genre in Thor already, Elba plays the captain of the Prometheus here and adds some much needed comic relief to the proceedings.  Scott managed to appease me once again by casting one of my cinematic crushes Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers the top officer in charge on the ship.  Theron gives Vickers a cool edgy sense of confidence in a no-nonsense portrayal.  Scott did a great job of getting the crew to play off each other in a similar style to what we saw in Alien.  The connections to Alien in this movie are numerous and very satisfying for fans of the series.  To avoid spoiling it for those who haven't seen it yet, I've posted my spoiler-full observations on another page.  If you've already seen the movie, go ahead and click here.

The real star of Prometheus is the visuals of the movie.  Shot totally in 3D, most of it on-location in Iceland, Scott paints a beautiful picture of an otherworldly civilization that borrows a lot of the H.R. Geiger architecture from the alien series.  The ship's controls are displayed in a separate layer from the action in a manner very similar to Tron and Avatar.  It feels as if you are watching the movie with a heads-up-display built into your 3D glasses.  The creature and atmospheric effects are amazing as well.  You feel is if you are on the planet with the crew exploring these undiscovered locations.  The haunting score written by Marc Streitenfeld supports the tension very well and adds to the overall mood of the movie.

This is a movie that falls right in line behind Aliens and Alien as a worthy successor (or predecessor) to the Alien film franchise.  I feel like the disappointing sequels of Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection should be cut loose from the franchise as a result.  Rumor has it that Scott is interested in filming a follow-up to Prometheus which would be a most welcome treat for me.  Some people may have issues with the story and the creationism overtones but I don't get bogged down in that aspect of the film and take it for what it is, a thoroughly entertaining thrill ride.  Overall, this is a film that any science fiction fan needs to see in 3D in the theater as soon as possible.  In a summer full of sequels and reboots, it's good to see a smart space film that can stand on it's own as a unique piece of cinema.  Prometheus is an excellent original slice of classic creepy sci fi that earns my first 5 out of 5 JR rating of the year.